The women are forced to flee war zones and trade sex for food

As the G7 summit takes place next week, seven women from around the world have written letters directly to world leaders to highlight the various crises affecting them.

It comes at a time when women are grossly underrepresented in political leadership and decision-making positions, despite disasters that are severely affecting women and girls around the world.

Only 10 countries currently have a female head of state and only 13 countries have a female head of government. Now, with Angela Merkel absent, this G7 summit will be the first in 17 years without a female representative from a nation-state.

The letters, coordinated by global charity CARE International as part of their #ChangeTheStory campaign, urge world leaders to ensure that women’s voices are heard and that women’s and girls’ perspectives are front and center, how they wish to address major global issues such as climate change, war in Ukraine, food poverty and insecurity, economic injustice, and gender-based violence and discrimination.

Here, exclusively highlights three of the emergencies that will be shared with the summit next week.


20 minutes after the bombing began, we fled for our lives

Daria Khrystenko, Warsaw, Poland

Daria with one of the Ukrainian students she teaches in Warsaw

Teacher Daria, who fled her native Kyiv, is now working with Ukrainian refugee children in Warsaw to ensure they still get an education (Image: CARE International)

Dear G7 leaders,

Three months ago I went for a morning run in my hometown of Kyiv. That was the last time I felt normal.

A friend shouted: “It happened – they are bombing Kyiv.” Within 20 minutes I had my ten-year-old son, two cats, clothes and documents in the car. Escape for our lives.

My mother joined us, but my father stayed to defend his city. We left without him. We queued for hours at the border and reached Moldova at 3am. The stress caused my mother’s heart problems and took her to the hospital. When she was strong enough, we drove 2,000 km to Poland, where friends offered their help.

The people here are so open and friendly. A woman told us: “I have an apartment, you can live there. I won’t take any money from you.” She came with mattresses, pillows and kindness. In the face of humanity’s worst, we’ve found the very best here.

This isn’t just my story. So many Ukrainians have the same experience. Poles work hard, it’s not an easy life, but they are willing to share everything with us.

I found a job at CARE and helped other refugees. It makes me happy. We support them with food, clothing, shelter, education, jobs. 90% of Ukraine’s refugees are women, most have children, and some of the risks they face are unimaginable. Still, the women come together, help each other, and send food and medical supplies to families and communities that remain in Ukraine.

It’s not just the men who fight – the women are on a battlefield of their own. Worrying is exhausting, but we keep fighting. And we need your help.

A woman and her children walk past a bomb-damaged building in Ukraine

“Many Ukrainians risk their lives and return to Ukraine for lack of money,” says Daria (Photo by SERGEI CHUZAVKOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Ukrainians will thank the world for their support for the rest of our lives. But the countries with the most refugees, the countries along the Ukrainian border, are not the richest countries, but they have taken in the most refugees – 3.5 million in Poland alone. People have opened their hearts and homes, but they also have needs. I ask you, the G7 leaders, to offer them more support.

Many Ukrainians risk their lives and return to Ukraine for lack of money. You cannot pay for accommodation, meals and public transport. I understand why Poland can’t cover everything for so many. But support from other countries would make a big difference.

Please continue to support vulnerable refugees from Ukraine without existing support systems. I never thought I would be a refugee, but now I see the great need for help for refugees worldwide, no matter what crisis they are fleeing.


Women were forced to trade sex for fish to feed their families

Adenike Oladasu, Lake Chad, Nigeria

Adenike Oladasu wears a white t-shirt that says “Ecofeminist”.

Adenike says climate change is exacerbating gender-based violence and sexual exploitation in her region of Nigera (Image: CARE International)

Dear G7 leaders

As you gather for the 45th meeting of the G7, I would like to ask two things; How far have you gone to bridge the gap between actions and words? And this time, how many women will sit at the decision table to ensure action is taken on the crucial issues of our time?

Twelve years ago, at a UN climate summit in Copenhagen, you made a significant pledge – a pledge by developed countries to collectively make $100 billion a year available to developing countries through 2020 to help them adapt to and mitigate climate change to help the further rise in temperature .

That promise has never been kept and more and more lives and livelihoods are being lost. From a recent IPCC AR6 report, we know it’s getting worse.

In May 2021, you also launched the G7 Compact on Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Crises, pledging around $8.5 billion in aid to priority countries, including Nigeria. Today, aid organizations and governments in hunger-stricken countries struggle to know how much aid this pact has really brought.

My name is Adenike Oladosu and I live in the Lake Chad region of Nigeria, where 4 million people are now in need of food aid. As the lean season begins, I dread the tragedy and hardship that lies ahead.

In rural Nigeria, women tend to be closest to nature and the environment and more dependent on natural resources such as land, water and forest. Therefore, when natural resources are depleted, women are the first victims.

Adenike is talking to a group of women in a field

“Women must be an important part of the decision-making process if we want to fight the climate crisis,” says Adenike (Photo: CARE International)

As Lake Chad dried up, women were forced to trade sex for fish to feed their families. Climate change is exacerbating gender-based violence and sexual exploitation in my region. I see climate and gender injustice every day.

As leaders of the wealthiest nations and historically largest emitters of carbon dioxide, decisions at your table should consider workable solutions in the best interest of all. Africa needs to be at the center as millions of people are displaced by the effects of climate change and its interactions with other crises we experience through a stream of hurricanes, droughts, floods and conflicts.

Do you have to wait until the tipping point where it escalates to war before acting?

Women in regions like mine are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis despite having the smallest carbon footprint. And when you, the G7, come together, all we hear is more promises and dialogue than action. I can tell you, promises won’t save us from destruction.

The shortage of women in parliament is also striking – globally it is 25.5% and in Nigeria it is a staggering 6%. Women must be an important part of the decision-making process if we are to tackle the climate crisis.

Since the inception of these gatherings, power has been entrusted to men, now it is time for women to take the lead. Without a woman leader in the G7 this year, how do you ensure women’s voices are heard as you create solutions to climate change-related crises?


No mother should have to put her children to bed hungry

Badia*, Herat Province, Afghanistan

A picture of Badia and her child, from behind. They are surrounded by sacks of donated food

Badia says she often skips a meal so her children and mother-in-law have enough to eat (Image: Suzy Sainovski/CARE)

Heads of State and Government of the G7 world,

Every week I watch the food prices go up. Conflicts in our region and globally have disrupted our food supplies, meaning the basics we rely on are now utterly priceless. Potatoes have doubled in price in recent weeks and just a small packet of oil now costs 50 afghanis (about 45p).

I have always enjoyed cooking and eating well with my family. But now I can barely put together a meal. I ration the oil as much as I can and reduce the portions I serve. But I often go without one so my kids and mother-in-law have enough to eat.

I have three children who haven’t seen their father in over two months. My husband could not find work here and was forced to look for work in Iran. It breaks my heart that my family can’t be together.

A woman in Afghanistan carries a sack of rice

“When the G7 leaders meet, I ask them to think of families like mine,” says Badia (Image: AHMAD SAHEL ARMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

The food shortage has already brought us to a crisis point. I now rely on the support of charities like CARE International. Without the food I get from them, I don’t know where I would go or how I would support my family.

Tonight I will cook bread for my children from the flour I received today along with rice and red beans. But I’m really scared of the coming months and the idea that I might not have anything to cook for my kids.

When G7 leaders meet, I ask them to think of families like mine.

No mother should have to put her children to bed hungry.

To read all seven letters that will be sent to the G7 summit next week, click here.

*Name has been changed

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Justin Scacco

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